Have you ever had a friend shock you? You thought you knew them pretty well, they seemed like a good person, you enjoyed your time together and you were interested in further developing the friendship only to have them do something which proves they were not who you thought they were to begin with? This can cause a number of feelings – anger, sadness, guilt, confusion, and betrayal to name a few. It can be tough to decide what to do. Do you accept your friendship in this new changed capacity? It may be possible if you can accept your friend as she is and if your differences are not insurmountable. Do you walk away from the relationship? This may be necessary if you are not going to be able to move on from whatever she did (or didn’t do). You are the only one who can make this decision. It is important to consider your options and make a decision based on what you realistically can do. It isn’t good for either of you to pretend everything is OK, but have lingering resentments and hostilities.
There is a decision tree you can follow:
- How likely are you to have to interact with this person in the future?
- Do you work together?
- Are you related?
- Are your kids in similar activities?
- Can you accept them information you have learned about them and still like them?
- Are you going to be able to let go of your hurt/anger about whatever it was that happened?
Let me give an example and walk through the decision tree. My husband, Jason, works in the restaurant industry which means he works ridiculously long hours. This means he often becomes good friends with his co-workers since they spend so much time together. Back when we were in our 20s and childless, he worked with a guy I’ll call Jim. Jim and his wife, Michelle, were close to our ages, newly married like us and dealing with establishing new careers. We went out with them a few times and had a lot of fun. There weren’t serious conversations during these night outs, just concerts and having fun. Well, one night on our third (or so) double date we decided to go to dinner. We were about 20 minutes into our meal when Jim started sharing his views on other races. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say he was one very small step away from White Power and “Heil Hitler”. I was immediately nauseated and Jason and I kept looking at each other in horror trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there. I can’t remember how we got out of there, but it was definitely an abbreviated evening that was not repeated.
Using the decision tree, we had to determine how best to proceed. In our situation, we (my husband at least) were going to have to continue to interact with Jim – at least at work. Based on this outcome, he had to determine if he could tolerate this new information about Jim – accept it and move on in the friendship. The answer was a resounding, “Hell, no!” This meant Jason was forced to limit their relationship to a purely professional one and set limits and boundaries about their interactions. We never saw them socially again, Jason stopped any conversation that became racist immediately, and chose to hold onto his anger at Jim’s horrible views as a means of keeping him strong against the pull of future friendship. Once Jason and Jim no longer worked together, we never talked with him in any capacity again. If I could have done one thing differently, I would have liked to have been more verbal in my rejection of his crap.
Not all situations will be this extreme. You may learn something else about a friend you are able to forgive and move on from. Maybe the relationship will not be exactly the same, but it may continue in some different (maybe even limited) capacity. You are the only one who can make this choice. Walk through the steps, talk it over (in a non-gossipy way) with someone you trust. You choose whether the relationship continues one, takes a pause, or is over for good.